Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Soy Good For You?

First of all, for those in DC, happy meat-free week!

There are many reasons to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet - animal well-fare, health, sustainability.  Grist devoted the last week in January to assessing our obsession with protein. In the past 60 years, global meat consumption has doubled. This is a concern, because animal products simply take more calories to produce than they provide when consumed. It makes sense - sunlight turns into plant matter (soy and grain) and then turns into animal products. Along with the loss of energy along the food chain, livestock factory farming produces greenhouse gases and collects waste that pollutes water (read earlier musings on the topic). For more analysis of the topic, check out "A Veggie Considers Meat" (a little bit of a deceptive title...)

But I didn't bring you to this point in the text to extol veganism; it's not nearly as simple as a no-meat diet. While at first glance, this article looks like a critique of consuming meat and dairy (eggs are low in emissions, but water-intensive...), it actually is much more nuanced. One of the reasons a vegan diet may not be all hunky dory, is soy. Yes, the stereotypical veggie, hippie, super-food - tofu. But soybeans grown in the States are sprayed with pesticides up the wazoo and are almost exclusively from genetically-modified stock. Holy Guacamole! This other soy-centric article essentially argues that if it's not organic, who knows what's in it. But more importantly, if you buy processed foods and not whole ingredients, the likelihood of consuming something mysterious is greater.

So, I think we can go by the general rule that "it's complicated." Pastured beef cattle can sequester carbon. Chickens can eat pests. Soy may not be a vegetarian's best friend. Be a conscious consumer, do your homework, and make sure what you eat, is what you actually want to eat!

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